It’s no secret – we have always craved heroes. The loner who steps forth and willingly lays down their life so that others may live. Call them Jesus, Davy Crockett, Sherlock Holmes, Joan of Arc, Sydney Carton, Gandhi, etc., etc., etc. Like the gestation of a pearl, our heroes are formed as a defense mechanism against a threatening irritant. No one is born a hero. They are made. In the words of John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.” Few of us know what we’d do in a life or death moment – that split second decision to stand or flee. As illustrated in Stephen Crane’s masterpiece novel “The Red Badge of Courage” that split second decision will mark us forever as either coward or hero. I wonder how many cowards crave to return to that defining moment – and this time lay down their life in lieu of the hell of regret and shame they have since endured.
Heroes, genuine ones, are hard to come by. In fact, the times we live in seem to rarely throw them up anymore. Hence the media and movies invent them for us so we can glow and feel safe in the knowledge that giants still do walk amongst us.
But in our eagerness to find heroes we are continually disappointed at being sold snake oil. Let’s face it, there are only two types of stories that sell newspapers and magazines – the first one is to build ’em up, the second – to tear ’em down. The perfect example is Princess Diana who started out as the media’s “darling who could do no wrong” and ended up their punching bag, stalked to death. I also remember when Alan Bond was hailed a hero. And Paul Hogan. And et finitum.
The real heroes mostly go unnoticed by the press. They probably aren’t photogenic anyway. They are the battlers who work themselves to an early grave so that their kids are fed and clothed; or the person who ruins a career rather than continue to make money out of a lie; and the firemen who run into a building when everyone else is running out.
Todd Beamer was an airline passenger travelling on 9/11 when he found himself on a hi-jacked plane heading towards the White House. After initially being terrified, he summoned the courage and the support of a few other passengers by uttering the words, “Let’s roll!,” broke open the cockpit door with a food cart, overpowered the terrorists and veered United Airlines Flight 93 off its intended target, straight into a field in Pennsylvania. Ordinary people swallowing their fear, and thought of themselves, for the greater good of others.
Which brings me to Julian Assange.
Remember how excited we were in 1974 that two reporters from the Washington Post could bring down the President of America? We loved it because we didn’t much like Nixon. He looked creepy. Had a five o’clock shadow year in, year out, and hadn’t ended an unpopular war that spilled into our living rooms every night ruining dinner. What looked like a victory for freedom to us back in ’74 has, in my opinion, created an even bigger monster. Now the press feel they are entitled to know everything about all of us and report it if they think it’s newsworthy. In this new age of no boundaries there are no such things as private lives anymore. Perhaps there’s a connection here as to why there’re so few heroes around? What complex person can have their private life scrutinised and come out a saint? We have all made mistakes (hopefully learned from them), trusted the wrong people, behaved badly, been divorced, been angry, been down, been bruised. But isn’t all that stuff the sand that makes the irritation that makes the pearl?
Would J.F.K have been so well thought of if we’d known all the aspects of his private life? Would it have made a difference to what we thought of his work as President? Should it?
Did it matter that Graham Kennedy was gay? Surely all he owed us was a brilliant performance every weeknight? And did he not deliver that in abundance?
Did it matter that Churchill could be a belligerent drunk bully at times?
My point is this – there are some things the public don’t have the right to know. Nor need to.
Is it a good thing that some of the secret information Julian Assange released to the world is out there? Probably. Does all of it deserve to be public? Probably not. But who decides about this? If I were to approve secret documents to be released it may not correlate with what you want made public, or the next person. So, don’t we vote into power political parties to make those judgment calls? And if we don’t like their decisions isn’t it our right, nay our duty, to vote them out?
One has to question the responsibility of releasing secret documents about Afghanistan. Why? Because we are, like it or not, involved in a war. A long and bloody war that has taken the lives of many and still it goes on. Do I want the US and Allied Forces (including us) to win this war? Well, if the alternative is the Taliban, you bet your arse.
One could not have had a more liberal President than Franklin D. Roosevelt. The new deal guy. A man who clearly cared about the people. He was reluctant to enter a war but when Pearl Harbour was bombed he didn’t have much of a choice. Yet how would President Roosevelt have responded to someone releasing his secret documents and information to the world (and his enemies) during wartime? I have no doubt he would’ve had the culprit charged with treason and made to pay the penalty for such. Thankfully it didn’t happen and the outcome of the war was not altered.
But to give blanket approval to Julian Assange’s actions is to open a can of worms that may never be closed again.
I was living in Los Angeles during 9/11 and saw the subsequent televised war in Afghanistan. On CNN one day I watched one of Geraldo Rivera’s reports from the war zone. During it he actually drew a diagram in the sand and pointed out where the US forces were secretly based and went on to expound what their plan of attack was. He obviously didn’t think Osama Bin Ladin watched CNN. Not one of Geraldo’s shining moments. I’m not sure how many of his countrymen he put at risk. But even one was too many.
Let me remind us all we are involved in a war. Whether you agree with that war or not, is another matter. But to put our young men and women’s lives at risk is an act of astounding stupidity. And not my kind of hero.
By Frank Howson (c)2012